Celebrity Confusion

May 21st, 2018

If you are a success, why wouldn’t you act like a success at a high profile occasion? Looking at countless celebrity male guests at the Royal Wedding (George Clooney, James Haskell and endless others), where your “dress” is a very clear mark of respect to your hosts, there wasn’t much respect on display to the Prince of Wales and Ms Markle’s mother. Why would you let down your spouse or partner, who has gone to a huge effort to earn respect? Which is it, “I conform to no one” (ego), “I am not familiar with local customs” (ignorant) or “the airline lost my bags” (unbelievable). If “manners maketh man”, many of us watching are in a state of confusion about some male celebrities’ beliefs that inform their behaviour, or perhaps, more likely we saw the less-appealing real man behind the PR-tinted lens.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Very Royal Connection

May 19th, 2018

25 million Americans will arise early this morning seduced by a few hours of British pageantry,  a young Californian girl and a British prince walking up the aisle. It is a moment where fact suspends fiction. Where a powerful brand leaps out of the television set and creates a deep visceral connection with its’ audience. Pure marketing nirvana.

Investing To Win

May 18th, 2018

In a momentous week for sports betting and gaming companies in the United States and UK,  there is a lesson for all of us. Quit whining about events largely out of our control that go against us (legislative changes) and maximise our investment in innovation and readiness for events that go for us.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

The Twinkling Diamond

May 18th, 2018

What, precisely, are you doing to draw your ideal audience to you and to maximise their intellectual curiosity?  When you perfect those techniques, you have close to zero acquisition costs.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ideal Investor

May 16th, 2018

If you want to broaden your “reach”, access a large pool of your ideal investors fast, and start turning first conversations into serious interest, how about YOU start by clearly defining your “ideal investor” traits? I am fed up with clients constantly asking me without first doing their own critical thinking.  Yours might reasonably include a strong personal or emotional connection to us, has a need or one that could be easily created for our proposed investment, can make a decision fast, has the means and authority to invest now and so forth.  Let’s hear it first.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

Reckless Entrepreneurs

May 16th, 2018

Just because we can ski most slopes, doesn’t make us an “automatic” to successfully navigate a steep, icy couloir. We find help, take advice, practice, get feedback and make adjustments to our technique. Why do so many early-stage entrepreneurs, who have had some success raising money from mostly family and friends, forsake that adult learning sequence, and demand their advisers immediately “show them the way” to new investors? I’ll tell you, it is where their confidence has turned into blind arrogance.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

European Operating Partners in Private Equity

May 9th, 2018

I am moderating a fabulous panel at today’s pre-eminent gathering of Private Equity Operating Partners in Europe. Hosted by THE industry publication, Private Equity International. We are covering a host of “hot” and provocative subjects: the GP/LP dynamic, the myths of value creation and accountability, fee transparency, when to kill the deal in an overheated market, equitable sharing of “carry” between the deal and operational members of a GP and so forth.

My “guarantee” is that some of your beliefs will be challenged, you may feel uncomfortable but you will walk away with practical insights.

Joining me is a group of diverse Limited Partners and their advisers from MAC Assets Management (a single Family Office), Clearsight Investments, Hamilton Lane and Stepstone Global.

Here is a sneak preview:

Check back later this week for a list of key learning points from this panel and the entire 1.5 days of programming including fascinating insight from Justin King, former U.K. supermarket supremo and now Terra Nova value creator  on the future of consumer retail stores.

 

 

 

 

Calling UK Entrepreneurs

April 30th, 2018

 

I am a current judge of “The Inflexion Entrepreneur of the Year Award”, one of 16 categories, at the Lloyd’s Bank UK National Business Awards, which was a great success last year. Would you, your clients, your investee companies or acquaintances have a use for participating in one of the categories, and hopefully, winning this year? If so, who should I address this to? The immediate deadline for submissions is 1st June, 2018. I’d be happy to offer some friendly guidance on the submission/judging process and the “value” they might reasonably walk away with.

Leadership Trumps Innovation

April 24th, 2018

Back in 2014, HSBC triumphantly announced a dedicated pool of $200 million to fund an innovation team and direct capital to young entrepreneurial fintech businesses. It has made some small bets in the intervening years and housed 3,000 digital techies in a separate London building because in the words of then CEO-Stuart Gulliver “we have a cultural issue.” Yet these actions masquerade a more profound Board and Senior Management issue: a fierce split has persisted for over 5 years about the priority that should be given to innovation, and the probable return on the time invested.

If innovation, internal or external, is truly critical to the business or profit centre’s future, why wouldn’t it sit within individual P&L’s, and the accountability reside with the appropriate P&L leader? When large organisations persist in setting up innovation labs, accelerators and dedicated corporate venture units too often they are “divorced” from the cut and thrust of the day-to-day business. They point to an unspoken truth,  innovation isn’t really a strategic priority for certain powerful voices and/or the environment is insufficiently supportive of bold ideas or foreign bodies.  Which is it? Common sense dictates that those leadership issues must be fixed first BEFORE investing a dime on innovation initiatives.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

3 Deadly Sins First-Time Venture Capital Fund Managers Rarely Avoid

April 18th, 2018

Why do so many first-time venture capital fund managers, who have been a success in their past, cease to act like a success when raising their first fund? Undoubtedly, the fundraising journey is long, on average somewhere between 15 to 24 months for funds under $150 million from firing the gun until the final close. Nowhere is that harder for General Partners, who are new to the investment game and of limited interest to institutional money. Over the past 10 months, I have had first-hand experiences with 6 fund managers in US and Europe and talked to a multitude of placement agents, who have shared their experiences from over 120 such fundraises. Three deadly sins:

  1. General Partners underestimate the three pools of personal capital (cash, credit and investment) that they need to successfully arrive at their desired destination and thrive. They over invest in non-essentials (expensive office space, hiring employees), at the outset, and under invest in external expertise (fundraising, skills development) when they most need it, typically, in the tough grind that follows some immediate success  securing a cornerstone investor.
  2. General Partners underestimate the importance of maintaining a high level of self-worth. They allow a “poverty mindset” to quickly become their default position. They jump on the first offer of committed capital driven by a fear of failure, they beg for favours (introductions, expertise) on terms they’d never accept and they fail to act like a peer in front of investors (constantly “pitching” rather than investing appropriate time building a peer-level trusting relationship).
  3. General Partners underestimate the return on their time invested in accomplishing various activities along the “journey”. They spend excessive amounts of time “fine-tuning” their methodology at the expense of articulating the results and value the potential limited partner walks away with. They allow their intellectual curiosity and ego, to lead them into targeting investors, who are highly unlikely to commit, in their desired timeframe. Why? They consciously ignore who they are today (an ambitious first-time manager with an investment thesis yet to be proven, and zero successful exits) and they are overly pre-occupied with who they imagine themselves to be in future for ego reasons (the next Fred Wilson, Bill Gurley, Josh Kopelman).

The final thought: You might be a great investor but first, can you actually create and build a successful business (skills, behaviours, expertise)? I am not talking about a division of a large VC firm, a global bank, a management consulting firm or something you did on the side in university. I am talking about a boutique asset management business.  That is the first question your highest potential limited partners are trying to convince themselves about.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.